Hate-mongering Kansans begin their assault

The Brooklyn Paper
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A Kansas-based anti-gay Baptist church began its promised three-day assault on Brooklyn with a brief rally this afternoon at a Fort Greene high school, two days before they vow to picket at three Jewish synagogues in Brownstone Brooklyn over those institutions’ apparent godlessness.

About five members of the Westboro Baptist Church, whose mission is represented clearly in its Web site address,, rallied for about 15 minutes outside Brooklyn Technical HS, holding signs reading, “Fags are beasts” and “God is your enemy.”

But the students were ready for them, holding a far-better-attended counter-protest. There was no violence, as police kept both sides apart.

“I find it disgusting that people can come to a public school, especially one as diverse as Brooklyn Tech, and express hate,” said James, 17, who declined to give his last name.

It is unclear why the church chose Brooklyn Tech, but its Web site suggested that the school teaches that “it’s OK to be gay.”

“WBC will teach the rebels of Brooklyn what good looks like, and you had better behave,” the church said.

During the protest, students remained across the street from the protesters, some yelling, “Go home!” and holding signs and stickers promoting tolerance. Students were angry, but peaceful, about the church group’s presence.

“Hating people is not really a good thing,” said Ahmed Muhsin, 16, a junior. “[The group] is trying to get attention. It’s really stupid. I don’t know why they’re doing it.”

Not only students, but some adults were part of the counter-protest against the church group.

“We are a diverse community,” said Jennifer Marik, a Clinton Hill resident. “We welcome everyone. Their hate does not belong in my city.”

Brooklyn Tech’s principal Randy Asher couldn’t explain why the anti-gay and anti-Jewish protesters targeted his school. He surmised that Tech is one of the largest schools in the city with a diverse and multicultural student body.

“I’m disappointed that anybody would advocate hate,” he said. “My students responded accordingly with a counter-protest. They were calm and civil about it. They were angered and frustrated by the statements by the other group.” He also added, “These are some of the best students in the country so I would expect no less.”

The Fort Greene rally came two days before the same bigots will rally on Saturday in front of Congregation Beth Elohim on Eighth Avenue in Park Slope at 9:45 am, at Union Temple on Eastern Parkway in Prospect Heights at 10 am and the Kane Street Synagogue in Cobble Hill at 12:30 pm on the eve of Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.

Church spokeswoman Shirley Phelps-Roper said the rallies were not anti-Jewish or anti-gay.

“How about we call it an ‘Obey your God’ rally?” she told The Brooklyn Paper. “You Jews and gays have got to put away your false gods, your idols and your filthy way of life.”

She added that “God hates the disobedient.”

“We picked these weekends because these are the high holidays,” she said. “You Jews broke the covenant with God. The beast is going to bring the nations to march upon Jerusalem. Your houses will be destroyed and your women ravaged. It’s going to make the Holocaust, the Babylonian captivity and the destruction of the Temple look like a tea party.”

The Anti-Defamation League, which has been monitoring the group for several years, said that Westboro tends to protest groups that “they think support homosexuality or otherwise subvert what they believe is God’s law.”

That even extends to the families of dead soldiers. Church members have made headlines for protesting at the funerals of military personnel, claiming that the soldiers’ deaths were dishonorable because they fought to defend a country that allows homosexuals to openly enjoy their sexuality.

Rabbi Andy Bachman of Congregation Beth Elohim prepared his congregation for the assault in a letter sent late on Tuesday that praised his temple as a “community that celebrates the strength of diversity” and a place “for individuals and families of all backgrounds to grow and to learn” — a possible reference to the focus of the Baptist group’s anger.

The next day, Bachman told The Brooklyn Paper that he had no idea why the Baptist fringe group is targeting local shuls on Saturday.

“If you look at their Web site, they are equal opportunity haters,” he said. “They are living inside some kind a time warp in which they feel they have the legitimacy to speak on an ancient Biblical notion of what God wanted or, more precisely, what ancient people thought God wanted from humanity.

“They have ignored the last 3,000 years of development of human civilization — that’s what makes their message so shocking,” he added.

Bachman said his temple had consulted with the NYPD and other congregations that had been the target of Westboro protests and determined that the best response is to not respond at all.

“We will essentially ignore it,” he said, just a few feet from the temple’s facade, which features the names of such hardly controversial religious figures as Abraham, Joshua, Samuel, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Esther and Ruth.

He also said that the bat mitzvah ceremony of Natalie Chertoff would go on as planned.

“She’s amazing,” he said. “Here’s a teenager who’s strong and confident. And she’s seeing [the protest] as a lesson that people will attempt to do hateful things, but our eternal message as Jews is affirming life in the face of hate. That’s been our key to survival.”

Bachman said he did not anticipate violence from his congregation, but the NYPD will nonetheless be out in full force. Phelps-Roper, the Westboro spokeswoman, laughed at the suggestion that Brooklynites would react violently.

“Don’t flatter yourself, Brooklyn,” she said. “We serve the living God. You mess with us, you’ll get double destruction for what you do.”

Updated 5:14 pm, July 9, 2018: Story was updated to include more details.
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Reasonable discourse

Mike from Carroll Gardens says:
"We serve the living God". I always thought that God was all powerful and did not need or want for anything. What are they "Serving"? Are they bringing food to God? How does God want to be "Serviced"? Westboro Baptist Church, your fifteen minutes are up.
Sept. 24, 2009, 5:01 pm
Chika from Crownheights says:
It is freaky when people who are super "religious" are also hateful - it is such a contradiction. Please everyone, don't think for one second that TRUE CHRISTIANS harbor such hate, ignorance, and stupidity within them. God hates hate!
Sept. 24, 2009, 5:23 pm
joe from kensington says:
Christians everywhere should hang their heads in shame at the hatred and intolerence their religion has wrought. Why aren't the Christian leaders of Brooklyn out in full force to denounce this group?
Sept. 24, 2009, 6:12 pm
Somebody from Brooklyn says:
Joe, why not the whole human race? And martians? I think we ought to be ashamed for even being in the same galaxy as ignorance of this magnitude.
Sept. 24, 2009, 6:23 pm
Publius from Bklyn Heights says:
Two words: Baseball bats.
Sept. 24, 2009, 6:58 pm
Somebody from Brooklyn says:

And one more word: Pwned.
Sept. 24, 2009, 7:07 pm
lauren from gastonia says:
the WBC are a disgusting bunch of human beings.
Sept. 24, 2009, 9:28 pm
Somebody from Brooklyn says:
They aren't human, they're beings of pure hatred. Humans have compassion and a sense of morals.
Sept. 24, 2009, 10:40 pm
Jerry from Tishler says:
This group are hard core neo-nazis.They hate Jews and Blacks.In fact Fred Phelps had a victory rally for the neo-nazi pig that shot
up the Holocaust Museum and shot dead the black guard there.
The militant Jewish Defense Organization is having an anti-nazi rally against this neo-nazi outfit head on when they march in Great Neck today. Rabbi Bachman had better stop
being an appeasing coward and stand up to tese neo-nazi pigs ! We say 6 Million Jews NeverAgain ! call 212-252-3383
Sept. 24, 2009, 11:25 pm
Leda from Slope says:
Jerry from Tishler says: "This group are hard core neo-nazis.They hate Jews and Blacks."
They hate everyone else, too -- they've picketed vs. gays, mainline churches, military funerals ... It's literally their lifestyle, since the whole "church" consists of Phelps' crazy kids and kids-in-law.

Amazing but true: Phelps is an ex-lawyer who was, at one time, a sincere champion for poor blacks and their rights.
But he became weird, then got disbarred (for being uncivil/loony in a case involving his own business). He then went totally wacko and started this "church" bit out of major sicko anger/resentment at the whole world.
Sept. 25, 2009, 6:08 am
Joe Nardiello from 39th District says:

Best to ignore these people, and move on with any holiday preparation or religious observance. We live our lives with meaning, around here and tolerance and interact like no other place in the world. We know all it.

Went to this group's publicized/scheduled demonstration in Ft. Greene/Brooklyn Tech yesterday @3:30pm -- this is not a religious group, it's a simple hate group that's out for max. media attention and in bizarre fashion. They grasp at scores of straws of any hatred & hoist the most absurd signs vs. anything that may make news, or try to get reaction. They spew hatred in hopes of getting it back. We've learned they bring an attorney in tow, in hopes their civil rights/right to speech etc. is affected -- again, best to ignore them.

In the case yesterday, they were driven by a privately owned mini-van with New Jersey license plates -- so, we can't even thank them for adding anything to the NYC economy with their fruitless stay, here.

Again, joyous days and peace to all across the upcoming holy days & holidays. Let's turn the page.
Sept. 25, 2009, 8:32 am
David from Windsor Terrace says:

a baseball bat to the head & a note reading "..You're not in Kansas anymore" should do the trick.
Sept. 25, 2009, 9:49 am
Brooklyn is Babel from Bushwick says:
It's really hard not to want to beat the "living" crap out of these loons but the rabbi is probably right about ignoring them. That said, there should be a good middle ground- can't some one spray them down with a firehose or something? Piano moving accident?
Sept. 25, 2009, 10:21 am
stewart from Bay ridge says:

Counter-protest against them, and every 10 minutes that they are there everyone at the counter protest donates money to the synagogue. i heard this was used before as a tatic against the WBC.
Sept. 25, 2009, 11:43 am
mmmm from BKLYN says:
That burger looks yummy
Sept. 25, 2009, 1:47 pm
Dave from Woodside says:
Doesn't God hate INCEST?
Perhaps, someone should remind these inbred hillbillies.
Sept. 25, 2009, 2:51 pm
Dee says:
As I point out about this group many times now,they can't consider themselves christians.If they did they would follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and I never heard of Jesus hating or judging anyone.
I also find it curious that wbc always seems to bypass Matthew ch.7 verse 1 but if they choose to judge in Gods' place that their choice but if they follow the bible and the teaching of Jesus they would have to condemn all of humanity and not just a few groups and organizations.
In my opinion their simple a hate group that is trying to hide under the name of God and religion.One of the wolves Jesus warned us about.
Sept. 25, 2009, 4:35 pm
Dee says:
As I point out many times now wbc is a hate group,they aren't a christian organization.If they were they would follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and Jesus never hated anyone.
They always seem to overlook Matthew ch.7 verse 1 If they choose to judge in Gods' place that's their choice but if they wish to do so according to the bible and Jesus teachings they would have to judge and condemn all of humanity and not just a few groups.
In my opinion they are simple a hate group trying to hide behind the name of religion.A wolf that Jesus warned us about.God forgive them for they no not what they do.
Sept. 25, 2009, 4:48 pm
K. from SP says:
Just one old lady wing-nut with questionable fashion taste, Gersh? Some assault. Old Westboro Baptist must have been stretched pretty thin that day. All this talk of violence seems superfluous; counterprotesters could just mill around her and she'd be lost in the crowd.
Sept. 25, 2009, 10:16 pm
Natalie from Cobble Hill says:
It should be raining today with tears from heaven falling on the angry denizens of the earth beneath it. This spirit of anger and intolerance against anyone who disagrees with anyone else has spread into all walks of life and all our endeavors. I am not Jewish but I will pray today that a new spirit of tolerance will enter our world and our country and we can unite to generate peace and better lives for all.
Sept. 26, 2009, 9:17 am
Andrea from Brooklyn says:
I admire the community's dignified and humane resposne to this propganda.
Sept. 26, 2009, 11:06 am
Ed from BkNY says:
K. from SP says: "Old Westboro Baptist must have been stretched pretty thin that day. "

It's not your usual church. Phelps ordained himself and invented his own church, probably for tax reasons. The whole place consists of Phelps, some of his adult kids and their spouses, and maybe some grandkids.
Sept. 26, 2009, 3:01 pm
Jess from Brooklyn says:
There's an interesting documentary about the WBC called "Fall From Grace."
If you want to see how absolutely out of their minds these people are, I recommend checking it out.
Sept. 29, 2009, 5:31 pm
Danny from Bronx says:
Only in America we can say what we want and have the right and protection from persecution. Love or leave it.
April 19, 2011, 5:52 pm

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